Almost all of their schools face significant deficits this year and next, with some running into six-figure sums, according to a statement from the Northumberland Association of High School Headteachers (NAHSH), a group which includes the heads of Alnwick’s Duchess’s Community High School and Amble’s James Calvert Spence College.
The statement explains that the crisis stems from substantial increases in National Insurance, pension and other employment costs over recent years while funding has remained stagnant.
Schools with sixth forms have seen funding reduce for this age group by more than £1,000 per pupil in some cases. For schools with a large sixth form, this has represented a reduction of approximately £400,000 per year since 2013.
More cost increases are on the way. A recent report by the National Audit Office states that schools face having to find savings of £3billion by 2019/20, equating to an eight per cent real-terms reduction in funding, the worst since the mid-1990s.
The situation in Northumberland is compounded because funding here has historically been low compared to many other areas in the country. Currently, it is two per cent lower than the national average. Furthermore, as a result of considerable variation in funding within Northumberland itself, the lowest-funded high schools are getting 20 per cent less than the national average.
It was hoped that the much publicised national funding formula would address the unfairness. However, the proposals announced fall way short of this. In fact, the majority of Northumberland secondary and high schools face a reduction in funding under the proposals, in some cases up to £90,000. This will exacerbate an already difficult situation that is fast approaching crisis point. Headteachers are dismayed that once again students in Northumberland will be disadvantaged by a flawed and unfair approach to school funding.
Con Todd, secretary of NAHSH, said: “We are deeply concerned that the quality of educational provision for Northumberland children will suffer as a consequence.”